If you're in the market for a travel guitar (or just a smaller acoustic guitar in general), you've probably heard of both the Little Martin and Baby Taylor. Both of these are 3/4-size guitars from well-known manufacturers, but which type is right for you? Let's take a look at the Little Martin vs Baby Taylor debate.
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Introducing Little Martin
Martin has been around since 1833, and many players consider their acoustic guitars to be among the best in the world. For players looking for an inexpensive way to get their hands on a genuine Martin, the Little Martin is a great way to do so. These scaled-down guitars are well-appointed mini versions of the original Martins. Little Martins have a unique body shape that is closer to being a concert body than to a dreadnaught. Here are the different models you have to choose from:
Solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany pattern HPL back and sides, no electronics
Solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany pattern HPL back and sides, Fishman Sonitone electronics
Solid Sitka spruce top, rosewood patterned HPL back and sides
Solid Sitka spruce top, rosewood patterned HPL back and sides, Fishman Sonitone electronics
Black HPL top, back, and sides
Koa-patterned HPL top, back, and sides
Here are some pros and cons of the Little Martin:
Pros & Cons of little Martin
Introducing the Baby Taylor
Compared to Martin, Taylor is a fairly new company -- it was founded in the 1970s. But in that short time, the company has made a name for itself in the acoustic guitar world. Taylor's Baby Taylor line offers signature Taylor company in a smaller package. All of these 3/4-size dreadnaughts have solid tops, and many come with high-end electronics. Here are the different available models of Baby Taylors:
Solid Sitka spruce top, layered walnut back and sides
Solid Sitka spruce top, layered walnut back and sides, ES-B electronics
TS-BT Taylor Swift Signature
Solid Sitka spruce top, layered Sapele back and sides
TS-BTe Taylor Swift Signature
Solid Sitka spruce top, layered Sapele back and sides, ES-B electronics
Solid mahogany top, layered Sapele back and sides
Solid mahogany top, layered Sapele back and sides, ES-B electronics
Here are some of the Baby Taylor pros and cons to consider:
Pros & Cons of Baby Taylors
Features Face to Face
When you're evaluating the Little Martin vs Baby Taylor, you probably want to look at how they differ before you pick one. In this section, we'll take a closer look at important features:
Martin lists the body style of this small size guitar as a "Modified 0 14-fret". This body looks a lot like a concert body acoustic guitar, which makes the Little Martin LX1 and other body styles very comfortable to play sitting or standing. All Little Martins are made with X bracing to give them a bigger sound. In fact, some players say the sound is similar to that of a full-sized guitar. A 23" scale length has reduced string tension compared to a full-sized model. This ends up reducing finger strain (which is great if you're new to guitar), and it also makes string bends easier.
The Baby Taylor has a traditional dreadnought body (although it's smaller than a full-sized dreadnaught). Like the Little Martin, it's also made with X bracing. The dreadnought shape gives it good tonal balance. While it's still a little on the bright side like most Taylors are, it has a fairly present bass response. This one has a scale length of 22.75", so it also has reduced string tension.
The Winner: This one is a toss-up. Both guitars have X bracing for great sound, and choosing a concert body or a dreadnaught comes down to your own preferences.
The exact tonewoods you get will depend on the model of Martin you choose. (Take a look at our listing of models above if you aren't familiar with all available Little Martins.) Higher-end models like the Little Martin LX1 have a solid wood top of Sitka spruce. More affordable models like the LX and LXK2 have tops made of high-pressure laminate.
All Little Martins have HPL backs and sides. Depending on the model you get, the HPL will be patterned and textured differently. Some models like the LX1RE have rosewood-patterned HPL, while the LXK2 is made with koa-patterned HPL. The LX1 and LX1E have backs and sides of HPL with a mahogany pattern.
The necks of most Little Martins are made with Stratabond. This is a laminated wood that's designed to be extremely resistant to warping -- a great trait to have in a travel guitar. Some models, like the LX1RE, have rust birch laminate necks. Birch may not be quite as sturdy as Stratabond, but it still resists warping and has a natural feel.
In terms of the fingerboard and bridge, most have Richlite fingerboards. Richlite is a composite material that looks and plays like ebony, and it's a more sustainable alternative. Some models have a micarta fingerboard.
The Baby Taylor offers more variety when it comes to top wood material -- you can choose solid Sitka spruce (on most models) or solid mahogany (on the BT2 and BT2e). All models with the exception of the BT1 Walnut and BT1e have layered Sapele backs and sides. Sapele sounds a bit like mahogany with more high end. The walnut on the other models has a slightly warmer sound.
Baby Taylors have tropical mahogany necks. These are ideal for players who prefer the look and feel of a solid wood neck. Mahogany also warms up the tone a bit. Of course, it may be more prone to warping with temperature and humidity changes.
For a small guitar, the Baby Taylor has the surprisingly high-end touch of an ebony fingerboard and neck. Ebony's deep black gives the Baby Taylor a classic look, and the natural slickness of ebony makes it very playable.
The Winner: We think the Baby Taylor wins this one, since these guitars are made with higher-quality woods on average. That said, if you need a small guitar to really stand up to the elements, a Martin (especially the LX) might be the better choice.
Sound And Playability
As mentioned above, both guitars have a shorter scale length, which makes them more playable if you like to bend strings frequently. The Little Martin is made with Martin's modified low oval neck profile. This is a little slimmer than a traditional acoustic guitar neck, and it makes the Little Martin LX1 easy to play even for players with smaller hands. The Richlite fingerboards on most models mimic the slick feel of ebony, making most of these guitars very playable.
If you're like most guitarists, you may not have heard of a laminate-top guitar. This sound demo lets you hear the Martin LX in action. The sound is fairly well balanced, but it can sound a little tinny on the high end. Still, it's not bad for an all-laminate model. Models with solid tops will have a fuller, more natural sound.
Acoustic-electric versions of this guitar come equipped with Fishman Sonitone pickups. These are respectable pickups, and Fishman is one of the world's foremost manufacturers of electronics.
Thus far in the Baby Taylor vs Little Martin debate, you've seen that the Taylors tend to be made with more natural wood. This brings their sound closer to that of a traditional acoustic guitar. This sound demo gives you a look at both the BT1 and BT2.
In terms of electronics, Taylors come with the Expression System Baby, a version of Taylor's Expression System. This system uses a behind-the-saddle pickup. Since it isn't under pressure like a traditional undersaddle piezo is, this pickup will usually give you a more natural amplified sound.
The Winner: While this Baby Taylor vs Little Martin question may come down to personal preference, we think Baby Taylor wins this one thanks to its more natural acoustic and amplified tones.
Appointments, Fit, And Finish
These guitars typically come with a Corian nut and a Tusq saddle. Corian is a composite material that is very dense and resistant to getting string notches over time. Tusq is a composite made to sound like ivory. Both of these features help increase sustain and tonal richness. They're also more commonly found on higher-end instruments -- a lot of smaller guitars and travel guitars simply have nuts and saddles made of plastic.
Solid-top versions of these guitars all come with a hand-rubbed finish. This may seem like a small detail, but it matters a lot when it comes to aesthetics. It's a high-end touch you don't usually see on travel guitars. Small fretboard inlays and minimalist rosettes add to its classic appeal. And chrome tuners with smaller buttons are higher-quality than you'd typically find on smaller acoustics.
Baby Taylors have nuts and saddles made of Tusq -- a good material choice for complex tone with lots of sustain. A varnish finish combined with an unbound body offers an understated look, too. Like the Martins, these guitars also have very minimalist rosettes. Die-cast chrome tuners both look nice and help keep you in tune.
The Winner: This is close, but we think the Martin wins this round -- the hand-rubbed finish really makes a difference when it comes to the overall look of the guitar.
When you're making the Baby Taylor vs Little Martin comparison, you'll probably want to know whether one line of mini guitars has features that the other does not. Here are some standout features:
High-Pressure Laminate - This is a feature unique to the Little Martin. This laminate is different from laminated wood -- it's a mix of paper and resin that is extremely pressurized. It's very durable, and its ability to resist cracking and warping makes it a great option to have on a travel guitar.
Layered wood - You've probably seen acoustic guitars with laminated backs and sides. Taylor uses layered wood instead of laminate on its more affordable models. This is to keep costs down while minimizing the tone sacrificed.
Mortise/Tenon neck joint - This neck joint is unique to the Little Martin. It's patented by Martin, and it's effectively a sliding dovetail joint. The joint helps maximize the contact between the neck and body, which gives the Little Martin a surprisingly big sound.
We don't think you can go wrong with either of these guitars -- the answer to the Little Martin vs Baby Taylor debate is essentially up to you. However, one of these mini guitars may be better suited to you depending on your needs.
Choose a Little Martin if:
Choose a Baby Taylor if:
Go to Tables above to check out the Little Martin or Baby Taylor today!